Australian winemakers look towards new markets as China trade war continues

Winemakers in Australia are looking to increase exports to Britain and the US, as the country's trade war with China shows no signs of abating.

The Asian superpower recently slapped tariffs of up to 212 percent on Australia wine, amid ongoing political and trade tensions between the two countries. 

The taxes on wines followed a number of other restrictions placed on agricultural exports, and sparked calls from Australia's Trade Minister for China to "play by the rules".

Now, although negotiations continue, many winemakers in Australia are reconsidering their export options and conceding it may be time to find other trade partners, reports ABC News.

Not only are exporters turning to markets like the US and Britain, there are also calls to push Australian wine into new markets such as India.

China has been the largest export market for Australia wine since 2016, according to IBISworld, accounting for 36 percent of export revenue. Before that, the US was in the top position, followed by the UK.

Mitchell Taylor, managing director of Taylors Wines, told ABC he believed the US market had not only had room to grow, but would also be more stable than China.

However, according to the industry group Australian Grape and Wine, increasing exports to the US would not be easy, as Australian wine would be up against strong domestic brands, such as those produced in California. 

Lee McLean of Australian Grape and Wine told ABC there was also a lot of competition from other countries.

"We are fighting with every other wine producing nation in the world for a slice of that market," he said.

With the UK now officially out of the European Union, there is also the possibility a new deal can be reached between Australia and the UK, with some hoping a free trade agreement could help be a short-term fix to the issues surrounding trade with China.

Bruce Tyrrell, another winemaker spoken to by ABC, said around 25 percent of his wine went to China. However, he said Australia didn't "need to be licking the boots of China" and welcomed moves to find other countries to export to.

He said his company Tyrrell Wines was working to grow exports to other Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines, as well countries in other parts of the world like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

There is also a push to export more Australian wine to India - though there are currently high duties and taxes on wine imports there making it more challenging for Australian wine producers - and Africa, winemakers said.

Last year, a campaign by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) - a group comprising more than 200 MPs from 19 countries - urged consumers to buy a bottle of Australia wine in December to show China it can't "bully" other countries with its economic might.

New Zealand MP Louisa Wall was part of that campaign, appearing in a video with other politicians encouraging wine lovers to throw their support behind Australian producers.

China said the tariffs on wine were temporary anti-dumping measures to stop subsidised imports of wine from Australia. But many, such as Australian senator Kimberley Kitching, say the move was politically motivated and came as a response to Australia voicing its concerns regarding China and human rights issues.